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‘Hope for Happiness’: The Soft Machine live in Paris, 1967

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The Soft Machine line-up was always kinda fluid but didn’t fully set until Kevin Ayers (bass, vocals) joined Robert Wyatt (drums, vocals), Daevid Allen (guitar), and Mike Ratledge (organ) sometime in the summer of 1966. Wyatt and Allen had played together in the Daevid Allen Trio in 1963, before Wyatt, Ayers, Ratledge and Hugh Hopper formed the Wilde Flowers which would later include members of Caravan.

The Soft Machine (always the Soft Machine until 1970) took their name from the book by William Burroughs. Allen had stayed at the “Beat Hotel” in Paris when Burroughs, Ginsberg, Gysin, and co. were in residency. He had been “the friendly straight with those guys.” He took drugs, made music (composing the soundtrack for a short film version of Burroughs’ novel The Ticket That Exploded), and soaked up the free-wheeling bohemian lifestyle. By the time he hooked-up with Wyatt, Ratledge and Ayers, Allen was a seasoned musician, poet, beatnik, and proto-hippie traveler.

Ayers arrived in England from Malaya at the age of twelve to attend “any school that would have me.” This turned out to be a high school in Canterbury called the Simon Langton Grammar, where he met Wyatt and Ratledge. Wyatt was into a range of music from jazz to classical, while Ratledge starting to experiment with tape loops. This potent mix of music and experimentation found its full expression in the Soft Machine.
 
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The Soft Machine as a four-piece with Daevid Allen.
 
The band moved through various lineups before settling on the foursome of Allen, Ayers, Wyatt, and Ratledge. The band were resident at the legendary underground club UFO alongside house band Pink Floyd. There was a rivalry between the two until the Floyd trumped their opposition with the pop single “Arnold Layne.” The Softs were never as commercial (though they did release what is arguably the first psychedelic single “Love Makes Sweet Music” in February 1967) as they preferred live improvisation and experimental sounds. Theirs was truly the music of the underground and a sound that would see them rightly hailed as “one of the more influential bands of their era, and certainly one of the most influential underground ones.”

According to Allen, the Softs first gig as a quartet was at the launch party for IT (the International Times) which quickly turned into a happening when Yoko Ono joined the band on stage and encouraged the audience “to touch each other in the dark.” A motorcycle was brought onto the stage and a microphone placed against the cylinder for “a good noise.” According to IT publisher Barry Miles in his memoir In the Sixties:

They also gave young women rides around the outer rim [of the venue] the Roundhouse on [the bike], bumping through the dirt and debris, raising clouds of dust.

The Softs were under Chas Chandler’s management, ex-bass player with the Animals who was also manager to Jimi Hendrix. Through Chandler, the Softs toured Europe and as support to Hendrix in America. However, after a tour of France, Allen was refused re-entry into England as he had an Australian passport and no visa. Allen quit the band, returned to Paris and set about forming the prog rock Gong. After recording and releasing their brilliant and seminal eponymous-titled debut album in 1968, Ayers quit the band to pursue a solo career. That was almost the end of the Softs, but due to contractual reasons Wyatt, Ratledge and Hugh Hopper reformed the band to release Volume Two in 1969. Since then, Soft Machine has continued under different line-ups (though lacking its original members) right up to the present day.

In October 1967, Ayers, Wyatt, and Ratledge were filmed performing “A Certain Kind,” “Save Yourself,” “Priscilla,” “Lullabye Letter,” and “Hope For Happiness” for the French TV show Ce Soir On Danse, which was broadcast in August 1968.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.06.2019
08:08 am
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‘Pot head pixie’: Gong’s Daevid Allen has but six months to live
02.05.2015
06:32 pm
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What sad news. Soft Machine and Gong founder Daevid Allen—a true counterculture hero—has made the announcement that he has but six months left to live.
Allen was being treated for cancer previously and operated on last year, but now it has returned and spread to his lung. The 77-year-old Australian legend is opting to forgo further treatment and let the illness take its course.

His full statement:

Hello you Kookaburras,

OK so I have had my PET-CAT scans (which is essentially a full body viewing gallery for cancer specialists, ) and so it is now confirmed that the invading cancer has returned to successfully establish dominant residency in my neck.

The original surgery took much of it out, but the cancer has now recreated itself with renewed vigour while also spreading to my lung.

The cancer is now so well established that I have now been given approximately six months to live.

So My view has Changed:

I am not interested in endless surgical operations and in fact it has come as a relief to know that the end is in sight.

I am a great believer in “The Will of the Way Things Are” and I also believe that the time has come to stop resisting and denying and to surrender to the way it is.

I can only hope that during this journey, I have somehow contributed to the happiness in the lives of a few other fellow humans.

I believe I have done my best to heal, dear friends and that you have been enormously helpful in supporting me through this time.

So Thank you SO much for being there with me, for the Ocean of Love and Now, importantly, Thank you for starting the process of letting go of me, of mourning then transforming and celebrating this death coming up – this is how you can contribute, this would be a great gift from those emotionally and spiritually involved with me.

I love you and will be with you always
- Daevid xxx -

Daevid Allen is one of the greatest FREAKS who has ever lived. He’s had an astonishingly full life and a profound influence on the lives and minds of so many people, myself included. He lived his life entirely on his own terms and I admire that more than anything. I’m a lifelong Gong fanatic. In the past year I’ve listened to their music as much as I ever have, revisiting everything from their earliest recordings to the “Radio Gnome Trilogy” (Angel’s Egg, Flying Teapot, You) to the New York Gong album to the little-known (but amazing!) album he recorded with Bongwater’s Kramer Who’s Afraid to the final, or what would at least seem to be the final Gong album recorded with Daevid, the wonderfully experimental I See You released in 2014.

I highly recommend I See You, which comes in a lavish hard case package festooned with Daevid’s whimsical drawings and lyrics, It’s really quite a beautiful book/object. If you’re interested, why not consider ordering it directly from the official Gong or Flamedog Records websites so that the money will get to Daevid NOW when he needs it?

Below, one of the most amazing clips you will ever see (I rate it the very best thing on all of YouTube myself): Gong performs a wicked version of “I Never Glid Before” on French TV’s Rockenstock program, 1973.
 

 
Animation of Daevid Allen’s drawings by Japan’s Mood Magic duo for a song called “How To Stay Alive”:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.05.2015
06:32 pm
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New on ‘My Dad Was In a Band’: My Dad is Daevid Allen from Gong!
07.22.2013
03:40 pm
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Another notable “Dad” was recently submitted to our sister site, My Dad was in a Band, this time coming from Ynys Allen, son of Gong’s Daevid Allen, whose father, of course is still in a band:

The first time I heard him play? I went on tour overseas with him and my mother when I was around 9 months old does that count? I suppose I’ve heard his music a lot over the years. But when your dad’s recording studio is situated in the non-soundproofed room right next door to your bedroom, I guess you kinda learn to drown it out.

Since he still currently plays I guess he’s not really applicable to the “was,” but because he has been around since before Jimi Hendrix was cool and he’s like mid 70s now, I thought I’d just submit him anyway. He’s been at the core of a whole bunch of bands, Soft Machine and Gong being the most notable.

Growing up with him is probably the reason why I don’t find anything weird in life. Dad has all these crazy drawings he’d done on commission plastered on the walls, he loves all weird things and has the craziest costumes and he’d dress up in them and dance around the living room. It’s been a running joke in my family that he’s 70 going on 17.

Hilariously enough I’m not the musical type at all, my mother is a professional artist and my father a professional musician and I entered university to do a degree in Computer Science. I’ve never really listened to my dad’s music recreationally, I didn’t even really listen to music in my early and mid-teens either, nor am I especially an avid music-fan now. Not that my dad minds all that much really- he’s already got one son in the band.

–Ynys Allen, son of Daevid Allen

Below, Gong on French television’s POP2 program in 1971:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.22.2013
03:40 pm
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Pataphysical Materialism: Daevid Allen and NY Gong, live in Los Angeles, 1979
08.08.2012
04:52 pm
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Above a flyer for New York Gong at CBGB’s

This just made my day: Black and white footage of Daevid Allen performing with New York Gong in Los Angeles, 1979.

Also known as the “Zu Band” because they were formed for rock impresario Giorgio Gomelsky’s “Zu Manifestival” event in Manhattan, the core musicians went on to form Bill Laswell’s Material. As seen here at the Los Angeles Zu Manifestival, New York Gong were Daevid Allen, guitar; Bill Bacon, drums; Bill Laswell, bass; Don Davis, sax, and future Shimmy Disc founder Kramer on trombone/synths. In the midst of New York’s abrasive No Wave scene, New York Gong were “Yes Wave” to the max, progressive, jazz, punk, progrock wunderkids led by the ultimate hippie

The sound quality is iffy, but that this even exists is a fucking miracle, if you ask me…
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Weezy, get me some LSD’: When Sherman Hemsley met Gong

Floating Anarchy: Gong, live on French TV, 1973

Thank you Virginia Tate!

Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.08.2012
04:52 pm
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‘Weezy, get me some LSD’: When Sherman Hemsley met Gong
07.24.2012
04:42 pm
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In honor of the passing of Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played “George Jefferson” on the The Jeffersons and All in the Family television series, here’s a re-post from the Dangerous Minds archives.

Sherman Hemsley was known to be a huge fan of prog rock, especially Gentle Giant, Nektar and Gong.

Hemsley collaborated with Yes’s Jon Anderson on a funk-rock opera about the “spiritual qualities of the number 7” (never produced). Hemsley also did an interpretive dance to the Gentle Giant song “Proclamation” on Dinah Shore’s 70s talkshow, that was apparently somewhat confusing for her.

But the best story, I mean the best story of all time, is the one told by Gong’s Daevid Allen about his encounter with the beloved 70’s sitcom star. Here is Allen’s verbatim tale as related to Mitch Myers (and originally published in Magnet magazine):

“It was 1978 or 1979, and Sherman Hemsley kept ringing me up. I didn’t know him from a bar of soap because we didn’t have television in Spain (where I was living). He called me from Hollywood saying, ‘I’m one of your biggest fans and I’m going to fly you here and put flying teapots all up and down the Sunset Strip.’ I thought,  ‘This guy is a lunatic.’ He kept it up so I said, ‘Listen, can you get us tickets to L.A. via Jamaica? I want to go there to make a reggae track and have a honeymoon with my new girlfriend.’ He said, ‘Sure! I’ll get you two tickets.’

I thought, ‘Well, even if he’s a nut case at least he’s coming up with the goodies.’ The tickets arrived and we had this great honeymoon in Jamaica. Then we caught the plane across to L.A. We had heard Sherman was a big star, but we didn’t know the details. Coming down the corridor from the plane, I see this black guy with a whole bunch of people running after him trying to get autographs. Anyway, we get into this stretch limousine with Sherman and immediately there’s a big joint being passed around. I say, ‘Sorry man, I don’t smoke.’ Sherman says, ‘You don’t smoke and you’re from Gong?’

Inside the front door of Sherman’s house was a sign saying, ‘Don’t answer the door because it might be the man.’ There were two Puerto Ricans that had a LSD laboratory in his basement, so they were really paranoid. They also had little crack/freebase depots on every floor. Then Sherman says, ‘Come on upstairs and I’ll show you the Flying Teapot room.’ Sherman was very sweet but was surrounded by these really crazy people.

We went up to the top floor and there was this big room with darkened windows and “Flying Teapot” is playing on a tape loop over and over again. There were also three really dumb-looking, very voluptuous Southern gals stoned and wobbling around naked. They were obviously there for the guys to play around with.

[My girlfriend] Maggie and I were really tired and went to our room to go to bed. The room had one mattress with an electric blanket and that was it. No bed covering, no pillow, nothing. The next day we came down and Sherman showed us a couple of [The Jeffersons] episodes.

One of our fans came and rescued us, but not before Sherman took us to see these Hollywood PR people. They said, ‘Well, Mr. Hemsley wants us to get the information we need in order to do these Flying Teapot billboards on Sunset Strip.’ I looked at them and thought they were the cheesiest, most nasty people that I had ever seen in my life and I gave them the runaround. I just wanted out of there. I liked Sherman a lot. He was a very personable, charming guy. I just had a lot of trouble with the people around him.”

Oi, if Daevid Allen thinks you’re weird, you must be a stone freak! (Like our pal, opera singer/actor Jesse Merlin. He met Daevid Allen in San Francisco and Allen said “Just look at him. He’s a perfect example of himself!” Coming from Daevid Allen, that’s the best compliment in the history of the world, isn’t it?)

Below, Sherman Hemsley as “George Jefferson,” dancing up a storm to Nektar’s “Show Me the Way”!
 

 
After the jump, Gong on French TV, 1973.

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.24.2012
04:42 pm
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Weezy, get me some LSD: ‘George Jefferson’ is a big prog rock fan
01.06.2012
03:06 pm
Topics:
Tags:

image
 
Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played “George Jefferson” on the The Jeffersons and All in the Family is known to be a huge fan of prog rock, especially Gentle Giant, Nektar and Gong.

Hemsley collaborated with Yes’s Jon Anderson on a funk-rock opera about the “spiritual qualities of the number 7” (never produced). Hemsley also did an interpretive dance to the Gentle Giant song “Proclamation” on Dinah Shore’s 70s talkshow, that was apparently somewhat confusing for her.

But the best story, I mean the best story of all time, is the one told by Gong’s Daevid Allen about his encounter with the beloved 70’s sitcom star. Here is Allen’s verbatim tale as related to Mitch Myers (and originally published in Magnet magazine):

“It was 1978 or 1979, and Sherman Hemsley kept ringing me up. I didn’t know him from a bar of soap because we didn’t have television in Spain (where I was living). He called me from Hollywood saying, ‘I’m one of your biggest fans and I’m going to fly you here and put flying teapots all up and down the Sunset Strip.’ I thought,  ‘This guy is a lunatic.’ He kept it up so I said, ‘Listen, can you get us tickets to L.A. via Jamaica? I want to go there to make a reggae track and have a honeymoon with my new girlfriend.’ He said, ‘Sure! I’ll get you two tickets.’

I thought, ‘Well, even if he’s a nut case at least he’s coming up with the goodies.’ The tickets arrived and we had this great honeymoon in Jamaica. Then we caught the plane across to L.A. We had heard Sherman was a big star, but we didn’t know the details. Coming down the corridor from the plane, I see this black guy with a whole bunch of people running after him trying to get autographs. Anyway, we get into this stretch limousine with Sherman and immediately there’s a big joint being passed around. I say, ‘Sorry man, I don’t smoke.’ Sherman says, ‘You don’t smoke and you’re from Gong?’

Inside the front door of Sherman’s house was a sign saying, ‘Don’t answer the door because it might be the man.’ There were two Puerto Ricans that had a LSD laboratory in his basement, so they were really paranoid. They also had little crack/freebase depots on every floor. Then Sherman says, ‘Come on upstairs and I’ll show you the Flying Teapot room.’ Sherman was very sweet but was surrounded by these really crazy people.

We went up to the top floor and there was this big room with darkened windows and “Flying Teapot” is playing on a tape loop over and over again. There were also three really dumb-looking, very voluptuous Southern gals stoned and wobbling around naked. They were obviously there for the guys to play around with.

[My girlfriend] Maggie and I were really tired and went to our room to go to bed. The room had one mattress with an electric blanket and that was it. No bed covering, no pillow, nothing. The next day we came down and Sherman showed us a couple of [The Jeffersons] episodes.

One of our fans came and rescued us, but not before Sherman took us to see these Hollywood PR people. They said, ‘Well, Mr. Hemsley wants us to get the information we need in order to do these Flying Teapot billboards on Sunset Strip.’ I looked at them and thought they were the cheesiest, most nasty people that I had ever seen in my life and I gave them the runaround. I just wanted out of there. I liked Sherman a lot. He was a very personable, charming guy. I just had a lot of trouble with the people around him.”

Oi, if Daevid Allen thinks you’re weird, you must be a stone freak! (Like our pal, opera singer/actor Jesse Merlin. He met Daevid Allen in San Francisco and Allen said “Just look at him. He’s a perfect example of himself!” Coming from Daevid Allen, that’s the best compliment in the history of the world, isn’t it?)

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Floating Anarchy: Gong, live on French TV, 1973

Below, “George Jefferson” dancing up a storm to Nektar’s “Show Me the Way”!
 

 
After the jump, a video for Gong’s “How to Stay Alive” with animations of Daevid Allen’s drawings.

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.06.2012
03:06 pm
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Floating Anarchy: Gong, live on French TV, 1973

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Considering how much I love the shit out of Daevid Allen and Gong, I’ve only posted about them once before on DM??? How can that be?

Well then, here’s to making up for that grievous oversight with something so fucking good it might cause you to have an out-of-body experience: Two insanely great live Gong performances from French television in 1973 on a show called Rockenstock.

First, the band do a ripping version of “I’ve Never Been Glid” that sounds extremely close to the studio version on Angels Egg except that Daevid Allen mischievously changes the song’s last line, “That’s another story, now it’s time to go and have a cup of tea see” to “That’s another story, now it’s time to go and smoke another roach.” (“Glidding” is how the Pot Head Pixes fly the teapots, if you are confused…)

I love the way that Allen’s trippy hippy dancing seems to “conduct” the group. Dig Steve Hillage’s “lewd guitar, Pierre Moerlen’s drums (the man was a god of rhythmic pounding, up there with Jaki Liebezeit), Tim Blake’s spacey VCS3 and synth-work,  the great Mike Howlett’s booming, tight, bass-lines and Didier Malherbe’s anarchic sax riffs. This is Gong at the height of their power and they absolutely crush it..
 

 
After the jump, “space whisperer” Gilli Smyth performs a mind-melting version of “Witch’s Song/I Am Your Pussy” from Flying Teapot.

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.30.2011
03:03 pm
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Pothead Pixie: Animation made with Daevid Allen’s psychedelic drawings

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Delightful animation of Gong leader Daevid Allen’s drawings by Japan’s Mood Magic duo. For a song called “How To Stay Alive” from Gong’s recent 2032 album.

Gong are playing tonight in Glasgow, Scotland at the ABC, tomorrow night in Manchester at the Academy and on Saturday 9/11 at the HMV Forum in London.

I saw the fabled psychedelic cult rockers in Los Angeles a few years back at the Knitting Factory (with Allen’s fellow Soft Machine co-founder Kevin Ayers) and the now 72-year-old “pothead pixie” and crew—core Gong members Steve Hillage on guitar, Miquette Giraudy on synthesizers and “space whisperer” Gilli Smythe (I love her) will be performing with Allen—still put on an absolutely marvelous show. Truly a one-of-a-kind musical experience. The Glasgow concert will be their first in the city for a decade. Hawkwind’s Nik Turner will be opening the shows with his group, Space Ritual.  It’s Classic Rock magazine’s Gig of the Week. Tickets available here.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.09.2010
05:38 pm
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